The areas of the US that were amongst the hardest hit in the “Bomb Cyclone” a few weeks ago are now in the line of fire for another major storm that is expected to set records for both snowfall and barometric pressure. This area of the world has already experienced major flooding from the weather system a few weeks ago, and is now expected to possibly receive over two feet of snow in just a couple days.
A Bomb Cyclone is essentially an inland hurricane, in this case the heart of the US Midwest, an area which should concern Emergency Managers and leaders of all sorts. While the effect is obvious for those in the area, why does this matter to the rest of the world?
Well, it comes down to the simple fact that a large amount of US grain crops (wheat, corn, etc…) come from this area and the agricultural sector in this area has already been devastated by the last storm system. Acres upon acres of topsoil has been washed away, along with huge swaths of infrastructure that is used to carry resources to and from farms. All of this means that we are going to see higher prices for all sorts of resources, but most importantly food and fuel.
The US Midwest produces huge amounts of grain that is used for everything from feed for livestock, to bread and pasta, to ethanol for fuel. This, coupled with rampant over-consumption means that food shortages are a real possibility, especially in poorer areas. In his book “The End of Plenty“, Joel K. Bourne Jr. says that while grain production has traditionally exceeded consumption, recent years have seen a significant reversal of that trend with grain stocks being steadily depleted. If we really do only have approximately 60 days of grain stockpiled as Bourne Jr. states, then we are in for a rough year ahead.
As Emergency Managers, it is our job to promote resilient and sustainable processes and practices, and we have to consider our job in the context of the whole system. It isn’t enough for us to build a flood barrier and call our job done, we have to consider the impact that flood will have on systems upstream and downstream of our location. We have to look at our job holistically and work in cooperation with each of the systems we interact with. It’s no good to save the physical infrastructure of a city if we can’t save the systems that support the inhabitants of the city.
While I don’t think that this year alone will send us spiraling into a post-apocalyptic nightmare of hunger, it is part of a bigger picture that should be concerning to every person on the planet. When I look at that bigger picture, I’m starting to get concerned about our ability to feed everyone, and I’m very concerned about my daughter’s future. We need to do better, we need to understand that we don’t exist solely to consume resources. We exist to be stewards of resources, to ensure that we take only what we need, and that we do so in ways that are sustainable for the whole system.